Route 66 News

Where a celebrity’s fame persists after death

A statue of rocker Johnny Ramone at his grave site in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles. (Flickr photo by AtomicPope)

The Los Angeles Times posted a terrific article about Karie Bible, a black-clad tour guide at century-old and celebrity-filled Hollywood Forever Cemetery, located off Santa Monica Boulevard (aka Route 66) in Los Angeles.

It seems Bible (her real name) is perfect for the site, combining a bit of kitsch with a lot of history in her tours.

She walks the cemetery like a historian exploring a Civil War battlefield. Unlike the usual rumor-laden Hollywood death tour, there’s not an ounce of fiction as she tells visitors about the famous and nearly forgotten, from Vampira to Valentino, among the cemetery’s roughly 89,000 residents.

“There’s this sense that you can write anything you want about a Hollywood star and people take it at face value,” she said. “You couldn’t write a trashy, sleazy tell-all about someone like Winston Churchill or Abraham Lincoln…. But if you write that about Joan Crawford or Valentino, people just believe it.” […]

Every Aug. 23, on the anniversary of Rudolph Valentino’s 1926 death, Bible dons a period costume to evoke Hollywood’s iconic Lady in Black, who mourned at the silent film star’s crypt, but she considers herself more of a “Historian in Black.”

“I really endeavor to humanize these people,” she said. “They’re not just tabloid fodder. They are real flesh-and-blood people who lived and walked the earth and mattered.” And although she was born in the 1970s, “way too late to meet a lot of these amazing people,” the next best thing is meeting their families and asking questions. The research for her tours never ends, she said.

Among the other celebrities interred at Hollywood Forever are Cecil B. DeMille, Bugsy Siegel, John Huston, Iron Eyes Cody, Mel Blanc, Peter Lorre, Victor Fleming, and Johnny Ramone.

This video, regrettably, doesn’t show Bible performing her tour duties. But it provides a very good overview of the cemetery.

Hollywood Forever also hosts shows by rock bands that come through town. Most of them play at the site’s Masonic Lodge. But that didn’t stop a few — namely, Oklahoma’s own The Flaming Lips — from performing in the cemetery itself:

Hollywood Forever’s website also contains an awesome interactive map, where you can check the locations and biographies of many who are buried there.

This post reminds me I should post something about the most memorable cemeteries on Route 66. The historic Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis, the sobering Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery near Chicago, semi-abandoned cemeteries in California’s Mojave Desert, and the small but exotic Montoya Cemetery in Montoya, N.M., come to mind.

(Hat tip: Kevin Hansel) 


2 thoughts on “Where a celebrity’s fame persists after death

  1. Jen

    I read that article yesterday and loved it, too. What a fun job! Thanks for the link to the Hollywood Forever cemetery’s site, I’ll have to go play around with it. And as a big fan of wandering around cemeteries (yes, super-weird), I would love to see what you have to say about those on 66.

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